Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jalula: Islamic State Closest Ever to Iran

On 11 August, Islamic State fighters captured town of Jalula in Diyala province. Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, reported then that IS militants had flew the black flags of the Islamic State over government building in Jalula, while nearly half of the town’s population had fled to nearby city of Khanaqin, 14 miles from Jalula and only 8 miles from the Iranian border. Jalula is the closest that the advancing IS fighters have gotten to Iran. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have said that they would mount an offensive to dislodge the militants from Jalula in the coming days.

The last ISF offensive during the current conflict occurred in mid-July when the Iraqi Special Forces, armor units, and Iranian-backed Shia militias, supported by Iraqi Air Force attack jet fighters, launched an all-out attack on Tikrit to retake the city from the Islamic State militants. They advanced to the center of the city, but eventually were defeated by the Islamic State fighters and had to retreat.

Launching an offensive against IS in Jalula, however, has a special significance. The town is the closest the IS has gotten to the Iranian territory and its forces now threaten the border city of Khanaqin, which is only 19 miles from the Iranian city of Qasr-e Shirin. This is a direct threat to Iran and the Iranians and their Shia militia allies are expected to actively support the ISF to dislodge the IS fighters from Jalula.

Map credit: BBC


Anonymous said...

Baffling and devilish at the same time.A bunch of men on pickup trucks defeats jets helicopters and tanks.Very fishy indeed.

Mark Pyruz said...

Technically speaking, that wasn't a genuine "offensive" or even counteroffensive into Tikrit. Technically, that was a reinforced counterattack.

It is likely that should Iraqi forces make a move to retake Jalula, that also would be a reinforced counterattack.

Nader Uskowi said...

Mark, the point was that the Iraqi military with the help from Shia militias could not retake Tikrit, and they threw their best at the operation: elite Special Forces, the army division renowned for the integrity of its commanders, armor columns, close air support, plus a large number of Shia militias. That attempt, call it offensive or counterattack was the first and the last operation by the Iraqis to retake lost territories, and they lost badly, even though they had by far superior forces. It's tough for them to fight a mobile force like the IS that easily, hence IS's advances in the past two months.

Now in Jalula, the situation could be different. The Iranians might throw in much more support, as they are probably genuinely concerned with the IS threatening the Iranian territory. This counter attack might not happen very soon, probably the Iraqis and Iranians waiting to see if the IS moves out of Jalula toward Khanaqin and closer to Iran. But interesting to watch the developments in the next days and weeks.

Anonymous said...

what will Iran do?

will it mass men and equipment and move into Iraq or will it assume a defensive posture?

Nader Uskowi said...

The Iranian military have not undertaken large-scale ground operations in a long time, and they are probably taking defensive positions at the border at this time against any external threat. That can change if IS fighter were to mount an offensive, with or without the help of Iranian Sunni groups, inside Iran.

The Islamic State has proven to be capable to use opportunities to get active or tacit support of population and regional actors. They would not move against any targets inside Iran unless they calculated that such move would potentially break the emerging coalition of Iran and regional actors and the U.S. against them. They might even get active support of players like the Saudis if they take such move.

Anonymous said...

Khanaqin is the last stop within Iraqi territory whereafter the next stop is Qasr-e-shirin inside Iran and the old MEK invasion route that leads directly to the Akhoond's nest. MEK advanced 140km to the gates of Kermanshah. It was by all measures the deepest penetration made by anyone ever during the length of the 8 year war.